My father instilled in me the love of freedom of thought and ideas. A staunch anti-communist and Eisenhower Republican, he thought it a good thing when I wanted to read The Communist Manifesto. “That’s how we are better than they are. They are afraid of ideas and of people,” he said.
I took him up on that fully. Eventually, during my high school years in the late Sixties, there was a poster of Lenin on the ceiling over my bed, not at all pleasing to my father but palpable evidence of his belief in freedom — and in retrospect of my naiveté about tyrannies.
Lenin’s jovial smile looked quite harmless on the ceiling. But it was much like the story I heard from a Yellowstone Park ranger about parents who actually tried to hold a child on the shoulder of a wild bear for a picture — they are not so cute and cuddly in real life as they are in the cartoons or in propaganda.
It’s been a long time since I romanticized Lenin (reading the first volume of The Gulag Archipelago is good for that), but my father’s lesson has stayed with me. Part of his mindset in embracing the freedom of thought was the ability to see unexpected things.
For instance, in talking about Elijah Muhammad and the Black Muslims, my father emphasized both that Muhammad preached hatred but also that his teachings gave his followers self-respect and dignity and they were effective in rehabilitating prisoners, succeeding at giving them a sense of discipline. (Please see the recent American Spectator article by Dov Fischer saying much the same thing about the anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan).
By the time 2004 rolled around, I had gravitated to the conservative side of things. But I listened intently to the keynote speech at the Democratic Convention that year offered by the young state senator from Illinois, Barack Obama. He seemed extraordinarily intelligent and spoke in a way that impressed me, despite the policy differences between us.
I was therefore positively inclined towards Obama as an intelligent player in the political scene when he entered the fray for the 2008 presidential nomination. He seemed someone I could live with as a leader even if we disagreed.
Then, in March 2008, I learned along with many others of Obama’s long association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Wright was Obama’s preacher for 20 years. The title of one of Obama’s books was a phrase that he picked up from Wright. Wright was and is a fierce and intemperate enemy of Israel, turning a blind eye to the fierce and hateful violence against Jews there that far preceded any Jewish state. Wright forcefully declared the United States as damned by God and richly deserving of the September 11 atrocity. Wright defended the anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan (again, see Dov Fischer’s American Spectator article) and pointedly associated with him publicly.
In response to the controversy over this association, Obama decided to address the nation. I thought at the time that this was a golden chance to take American politics to another level. I was hoping to hear something like, “I was young and did not yet realize the significance of Wright’s stance of condemnation of Jewish national life and his blithe defense of Farrakhan as not really an anti-Semite. But now I have grown and regret this chapter in my life.” I was ready to stand and cheer.
Instead, Obama lectured the nation on its history of racism and made no serious acknowledgement of any kind of error.
My opinion of the man changed overnight. I had looked on his intelligence and communication skills as deserving of my respect. Now I sensed that they made him extremely dangerous. He had shown a moral emptiness and a great ability to conceal it.
The opinion that formed overnight in April 2008 confirmed itself in his behavior as president time and time again. His intelligence told him what people needed to hear; his intelligence told him that if he told the people what he intended straight up, he would not have the support of the people. And so he concealed his intentions from the nation and accomplished his major goals through deceit.
Obamacare was pitched and sold as something that would substantially lower premiums for the majority of Americans. Americans could keep their doctors. Exchanges would offer greater choice than ever. And it did not involve a tax — that he said again and again.
Of course, premiums went way, way up for most people. Keeping your own doctor was only a “maybe.” The exchanges in many states offer only one program. And the only reason Obamacare was not ruled unconstitutional was because the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court ruled that its mandate was a tax.
Far more threatening and insidious were the devious tactics Obama employed to undercut the powerful sanction regime established against Iran and to sign on to an agreement that guaranteed Iran entrance to the nuclear club within 10 years (about five to go). Alan Dershowitz has written eloquently on the gravity of the personal betrayal when Obama garnered his 2012 endorsement on the basis of false assurances about the Iran deal.
The depths of Obama’s devious and spiteful mind were revealed after the repudiation of the 2016 elections. The lame-duck choice to desert Israel in the Security Council vote that stunningly rewrote international law to Israel’s detriment was pure spite. And now, bit by bit, Obama’s involvement in the high-level attempt to use the FBI and national intelligence to overthrow a lawfully elected president is coming into view through the steady drip of newly released documents. This attempt to wrench political power away from the electorate is to me the greatest betrayal of our system by any president.
I never much liked Donald Trump’s persona. I didn’t watch his TV show. I am not a fan of the glitz that he has always loved. I haven’t liked his wild way of communicating, his name-calling, his extremely imprecise use of language and arguments, and his braggadocio.
And yet, where it counts, he has been absolutely reliable. He said exactly what he was going to work for. And whether that was new trade deals, border control, or a better relationship with Israel, that is what he has done — at least as far as he was allowed to go by unremitting opposition.
I’m still not comfortable with a lot about the president. But in the most basic way and for the most important things he has been truthful and dedicated.
Now his opposition no longer dissembles about what they intend. I don’t believe for a moment that the issues to which Biden and the Democrats are committed attract a majority of the country. The winning issue, his strategists think, is that he is not Trump.
But I think it will become clearer that the only antidote to the clever dishonesty of the Obama years was the blunt, bulldozing, free-talking, bragging Trump. For all his many faults, he has kept the most basic faith between the electorate and an elected leader — he tells the people what he means to do, and then he does it.
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Author: Shmuel Klatzkin